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Newsletter. Issue 2005-01. Jan. 08, 2005
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Health & Wellness

Alzheimer's & Cancer
Curry 'may slow Alzheimer's'
A spicy ingredient of many curries may be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease, say researchers.
A team from the University of California at Los Angeles believes that turmeric may play a role in slowing down the progression of the neurodegenerative disease.
The finding may help to explain why rates of Alzheimer's are much lower among the elderly in India than in their Western peers.
Turmeric is the crucial ingredient
Previous studies have found that Alzheimer's affects just 1% of people over the age of 65 living in some Indian villages.
Vindaloos
Turmeric is found in everything from mild Kormas to the hottest Vindaloos. The crucial chemical is curcumin, a compound found in the spice.
Alzheimer's is linked to the build up of knots in the brain called amyloid plaques.
Turmeric reduced the number of these plaques by a half.
The researchers also found that turmeric had other health benefits.
It aids digestion, helps fight infection and guards against heart attacks.
In the study, middle aged and aged rats were fed a diet rich in curcumin.
All the rats received brain injections of amyloid to mimic progressive Alzheimer's disease.
Not only was there less evidence of plaque build up in the curcumin-fed rats, they also outperformed rats on normal diets when carrying out maze-based memory tests.
Curcumin also appeared to reduce Alzheimer's-related inflammation in the brain tissue.
Researcher Dr Sally Frautschy said the compound had potential as a treatment for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease - particularly in tandem with anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
Dr Richard Harvey, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Curcumin has both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
"Drugs with similar properties could potentially be used as preventative treatments for Alzheimer's disease."
However, Dr Harvey warned that it could be many years before such drugs were made widely available.
'Curry is cancer fighter'
A key ingredient of curries could help prevent or manage colon cancer, according to research being carried out in Leicester.
The news comes just days after cold and flu experts recommended a spicy dish as the perfect antidote to winter sniffles.
Researchers at the oncology department of Leicester University noticed that, out of 500 patients diagnosed with colon cancer, only two were Asian, despite 20% of the city's population being Asian.
Curry and rice: could be healthy
They believe that the secret of the Asian community's ability to resist cancer lies in the spice curcumin, which is frequently used in curry cooking.

Professor Will Steward and his team are testing curcumin capsules on colon cancer sufferers to see what effect the spice has on the system.

But they hope that eventually the capsules will be given to healthy people to test their preventive abilities.

Research in the US has already suggested that the spice could block or shrink tumours.

Healthy diet

The work of Will Steward will be discussesd at a cancer conference being held in Leicester on Wednesday.

Cancer Research Campaign director general Professor Gordon McVie, praised curries for containing a higher level of fruit and vegetables, and for the fibre contained in boiled rice.

He said: "The Indians treat vegetables with more restraint than we do - they don't stew them or boil them to death. They also use a lot of tomatoes and garlic which are supposed to have a lot of health benefits."

However, the high-fat, creamy dishes served by many Indian restaurants are not necessarily on the health menu.

Luci Daniels, vice chair of the British Dietetic Association, said: "The typical curries which we eat in restaurants are very different from what Indian families eat at home.

"The traditional diet tends to have more fruit, pulses and vegetables. A lot do not have meat in their diets at all.

 


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